Rosh Hashanah, Natasha Bedingfield and the Art of Getting Off Your Ass

16 09 2015

Natasha - not a Jew but her words could be.

Natasha – not a Jew but her words could be.

(It’s a catchy title, I know.)

Tonight ends the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. It is the year 5776 and if I could go back to year 1, I am pretty sure there would be a hieroglyphically-written blog post about the strange mix of apples, honey, indigestion and families having multiple conversations (all at increasing volumes) at the same time. There would also be something about “being inscribed in the book of life for another year.” 

On this holiday, Jews pray all over the world that God will see to it they are written and included in the “book of life” to see another year. Always on the verge of some sort of destruction, it doesn’t hurt to try to turn that frown upside down, I guess, even on what should be a celebration – a New Year. 

As a kid, I really did believe in this version of religion – that we had to hope and pray that we would live for another year, as would those we cared about. I understand the importance of believing in something higher than ourselves but the idea of some sort of Jewish Santa Claus making a list of who will get the gift of life versus those who will get eternal coal is a bit too much for me, not to mention, a bit too passive.

On the ride home from my parents’ house, the kids and I were in the car and my son assumed his usual role of “DJ of the car.” After stomaching several rap songs, all of which were not of the good “Beastie Boy/Run DMC” flavor, my daughter and I convinced him that he had to choose things we all could listen to, or at least take turns.

Half way through our ride, “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield, made it to the line-up. It’s a catchy enough tune. I could deal with it. This time, however, as part of my practice of trying to be more “in the moment”, I really paid attention to the lyrics. As it turns out, it’s not about tasting rain, which is all I ever really got subliminally out of that song. It talks about really embracing life on your terms. And in the lyrics? “Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten.”

The immediacy of hearing about beginning a new book yet to be unwritten on the Jewish New Year was not entirely lost on me. If anything, I may have (and continue) to make a connection where none exists for anyone but me. But, hey, as you know from reading other blog posts, that’s sort of my thing.

I like Natasha’s version a bit better than the Old Testament one, to be honest. In the former, it feels like we have not much say as to whether we are going to be inscribed for a good year or not, other than the judgement of our actions from the past year. In the latter, it feels like we are given the chance to reflect and start anew and it is up to us to “get off our ass” (see where that fits in now?) and actually not wait for someone or something to help us.

This fits in nicely with a more recent blog post I wrote about a passage I had read from Pema Chodron. (See “The Positive Side of Hopelessness – May 4, 2015). To reiterate, she writes: “Theism is a deeply seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there’s always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We all are inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves.”

I like the idea that we should not just wait and hope but start writing our own story. It is unsettling to have your book just begin and unwritten. For me, at least, it’s more unsettling to be a character in a story you had no part in at all. 

To all, whether it’s a New Year for you or not, here’s to starting your story. What will your first chapter be and when?

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks again for reading. I appreciate it. If you haven’t already, please consider enrolling to get my blog posts delivered straight to your inbox through this site, email me at marckaye91@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @marckaye1. (Better yet, how about all 3). Also, through October 15, for every new follower I get, I will be donating $1 to Nechama, a disaster relief agency, in honor of my daughter who is raising money and awareness for this great organization for her Bat Mitzvah project! Thanks again, Marc





The Positive Side of Hopelessness

4 05 2015

Pema-Chodron_065

I have been reading a book by Pema Chödrön, “a notable American figure in Tibetan Buddhism” in which she talks about the benefits of hopelessness. That’s right – not hopeFULness…hopeLESSness.

This is not what I had expected at all, as you can imagine. In fact, I thought that in the practice of meditation and being one with  the present, that it was hope I would find. Rather, hopelessness is the beginning.

Here is what she has to say on the subject:

“The difference between theism and notheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God. It is an issue that applies to everyone, including Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Theism is a deeply seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there’s always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We all are inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves. Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves. Nontheism is realizing that there’s no babysitter that you can count on. The whole of life is like that. That is the truth, and the truth is inconvenient.”

The truth is inconvenient? Boy, don’t I know it. Those are probably the truest 4 words ever spoken in the English language.

What Chödrön is essentially saying is that there is a benefit to the idea of hopelessness. If we are able to abandon hope it forces us to stop waiting for something better and/or not fully live in the present. Living in a present that is less than ideal is uncomfortable and inconvenient. However, doing so gives us great confidence in our ability to do just that because we have to face what is – whether it is good or bad – and after we do just that, we gain great confidence.

Basically, suffering is part of life. It is inescapable. There is great comfort and pride in actually doing something and dealing with what is here and now. I think that regardless of how badly a night of comedy might go, that is why I keep coming back. At least I was living. I couldn’t stand up there bombing and hope it would get better. I could deal with it right then and there and sometimes that actually turns out to be just fine.

And that is just comedy. In the grand scheme of thing, it is not important. Today, I went to a WWII discussion with 3 veterans on a panel and they all spoke to the daily uncertainty they lived with as young soldiers – having to deal with the very real present and death every day. They accepted this suffering and talk about it with great humility and pride. It has given them incredible resilience and perspective. Perhaps the hopelessness that they felt 70 plus years ago was the most pivotal thing that could have happened to them in their young lives because it forced them to accept what is and not what they hope it to be.

This is a lesson I am learning every day in my life. Through some of the most challenging days over the past 2 years, I have felt more grateful than I had ever felt before.

Until next time,

Marc








%d bloggers like this: